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Develop your skills: Begin your doctoral practice


Congratulations on your progress thus far! If you are using these tabs according to the general schema of this website, you have moved past the first initial steps in your doctoral program and are now beginning to develop your skills in reviewing research. Perhaps you have attended a residency. Maybe you’ve begun a course or two in research methods. At this point, you’ll want to start honing your writing, reading, and critical thinking skills, to prepare yourself for the time when you’ll need to produce your own research. You’ll also want to start getting your ideas organized. 

Consider a Writing Workshop

Preproposal Doctoral Writing Workshop

If you’re seeking guidance on your writing, consider one of Walden’s writing workshops, offered within the Office of Academic Support, where you’ll receive writing-related guidance from writing faculty that is catered toward your scholarly interests and the general timeline of your doctoral work.

Ideal Students

Doctoral students who are about to start working on their preproposal document (e.g., premise, prospectus) and find themselves needing writing guidance and support.

Start a writing practice

It’s a good idea to start a regular writing practice, one that helps you become more comfortable with the exercise of writing and revising. The thing to remember is that scholarly writing is a skill that requires consistent practice and dedication. It’s never too early to start honing that skill, especially with your capstone approaching.  

The Writing Center’s Doctoral Capstone Preproposal Starter Kit includes writing resources that emphasize a strong foundation in writing preparation, self-assessment, self-editing, and other important capstone writing skills such as:


If you are finishing up your coursework, you might find it helpful to listen to the doctoral capstone webinar “Transitioning from Coursework to Capstone Writing,” which provides resources on preparing to write a doctoral study or dissertation.

Strengthen your reading skills

In order to become a strong writer, you must first be a strong reader. The Academic Skills Center provides a variety of strategies for improving your reading skills such as:

Engage in critical thinking

Critical thinking is an essential skill to develop for your capstone, since you’ll need to weigh the validity of evidence from various sources and decipher what and how to integrate sometimes disparate information into a coherent narrative. See these helpful explanations of critical thinking:

Organize your thoughts

Writing a paper, whether for a course paper or for your capstone, requires some organizational skill.  It is often a challenge to keep your thoughts organized.  Walden's Centers have tools that can help you with these organizational challenges.

Academic Skills Center

The Office of Research and Doctoral Services:

The Office of Research and Doctoral Services’s website offers a Historical Alignment Tool to help you put your ideas together, ensuring that the key elements are aligned. 


Examine the literature

Now is the time to hone your Library research skills.  Insufficient research skills can be a stumbling block at the capstone stage, so take advantage of the opportunities during your course work to learn to be an effective researcher.  When doing research for your discussions and assignments, take some time to think about the process involved.  What database are you using?  What keywords are you using?  Are they effective? What resources are appropriate for different research needs?

The Walden Library has resources that help you make better resource choices and be a more effective researcher. 

Research Help:


Increase your skills in statistics, Excel, or SPSS software

If you are planning a quantitative study, the Academic Skills Center has a myriad of resources to introduce students to Course-related Statistics, SPSS, and NVivo.

Read Walden dissertations, doctoral projects, & doctoral studies

Reading dissertations and project studies is an important part of preparing for your capstone.  The more you read the research output of other doctoral students, the better prepared you will be for your own capstone journey.

ScholarWorks houses Walden dissertations, Walden journals, and publications by Walden faculty.  Investigate the impressive scholarly and creative output of the Walden University community

Think ahead to your own research

If you are curious about the different research methods that you might use in your capstone, the Office of Research and Doctoral Services offers some research methods tutorials to give you a broad overview of some potential options.